“More than 99% of cases worldwide are due to the delta variant and more deaths are among the unvaccinated,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. . “I think this is our priority while we wait to learn more about [the omicron] variant. “
Last week, the World Health Agency recognized the omicron variant, first called lineage B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern. This means he could be more contagious, more virulent, or more adept at evading public health measures, vaccines and therapies. The strain was first identified by South African scientists.
Delta, on the other hand, was first detected in India.
Why Are Health Experts Worried?
Health experts are concerned about the transmissibility of the omicron variant given its unusual constellation of mutations and its profile that differs from previous worrying variants.
“So that’s not necessarily what’s going to happen, but it’s a strong indication that we really need to prepare for it,” Fauci added.
WHO’s Swaminathan told CNBC scientists needed time to conduct experiments and collect data that would help them answer some of the fundamental questions surrounding the new variant.
“What we would like to know is if this variant is more transmissible, even more than delta?” We would like to know if there is a different clinical pattern, is it less severe, more severe when it causes the disease? She said, adding, “And third, and very importantly, is this variant able to escape immune responses either after natural infection or after vaccinations.” “
How fast does the variant spread?
Covid vaccine makers Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have said they are investigating and testing the omicron variant.
WHO’s Swaminathan said for now it’s safe to assume that existing vaccines will provide some, if not complete protection against the new strain.
“It is really important that everyone who is still not vaccinated or who has only received one dose get a full vaccine,” she said.
Information compiled by Our World In Data showed that approximately 43% of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But only a small percentage of the population in low-income countries has received at least one dose.
The WHO has repeatedly criticized the global inequity of vaccines, as most injections have been given in rich or middle-income countries, including booster doses.